WOMEN

10 Powerful Photos Reveal The ‘Unseen Scars’ Emotional Abuse Leaves Behind

"Violence, in all forms, is unacceptable."

"Just because you aren't being hit -- doesn't mean you're not being abused." 

That's the message behind Sarah Hosseini's new photo essay titled "Unseen Scars." As a survivor of domestic abuse, Hosseini created the series to reveal the emotional trauma that victims are often left with after leaving their abuser.

Although Hosseini's abuser only physically hit her once, she said that he abused her through manipulation, lying and verbally attacking her. The series represents the "unseen scars" that so many survivors of abusive relationships carry, but often go untreated because they're not physical scars. 

Hosseini and photographer Melanie Mercogliano created a series of 10 photos featuring Hosseini and her experiences as a survivor. Each image is paired with Hosseini's personal testimony of the everyday struggles she endures over a decade after her abusive relationship.

"I know many women who also suffer with these after effects of abuse -- even if their abuser never physically touched them," Hosseini told The Huffington Post. "The threats are damaging. The manipulation is monstrous." 

"Domestic violence can take many forms -- physical abuse, sexual abuse, rape, emotional abuse, intimidation, economic deprivation, threats of violence."

"While physical scars heal, the unseen hurt in a person is what affects them for the rest of their lives," Mercogliano told The Huffington Post. "There is no ER visit where the nurses stitch you up, there are no flowers and presents and there is no therapy afterwards."

Hosseini wanted to capture the trauma of emotional abuse in the same way physical abuse often is illustrated -- through photographs. So she drew from her own experience and created images from the thoughts that run through her head every day.

She said that creating the series was "absolutely therapeutic" as a survivor. "The project gave me power -- power over my abuser, power over my past and power in the dialogue about domestic violence," she said.

Scroll below to read Hosseini's intimate and powerful struggle as a survivor of domestic abuse. 

 
  • <i>"After a fight, my abuser flung me in the backseat of his car and locked the doors. He threatened to drive me to an unknow
    Melanie Mercogliano
    "After a fight, my abuser flung me in the backseat of his car and locked the doors. He threatened to drive me to an unknown destination at night, in the middle of nowhere and drop me off there. It was terrifying.

    Not long after, he hit me behind the head while I was driving. I reported it to the police at the urging of my mother, but never pressed charges. I was scared. Scared of him. Scared of what kids at school would say about me. And in a sick way, I still loved him. I thought he would stop."
  • <i>"After a verbal fight, my abuser told me he had HIV. That he was HIV-positive. Because we had unprotected sex, I was hyste
    Melanie Mercogliano
    "After a verbal fight, my abuser told me he had HIV. That he was HIV-positive. Because we had unprotected sex, I was hysterical. I thought, I’m dead. I’ll have to tell everyone I know. After several minutes of me sobbing, he said he was lying. That it was just a joke. 

    It’s been over a decade since that 'joke.'

    I still get tested for HIV every single year since then. Even though I’ve been married for six years. In the back of my mind, I’m always wondering, 'what if he did really have HIV?' 'What if I have it, and the tests aren’t picking it up?'"
  • <i>"I find myself always looking to my peripheral. Never all the way back, never all the way forward.&nbsp;</i><br><br><i>In
    Melanie Mercogliano
    "I find myself always looking to my peripheral. Never all the way back, never all the way forward. 

    In parking lots, or on the street -- my heart quickens whenever I see a man who is the same size and physique as my abuser.

    I think for a split second, is it him? Even if it’s highly unlikely, my panic-stricken mind thinks it’s possible."
  • <i>"I&rsquo;m constantly assessing threats.&nbsp;I scan rooms to identify escape routes everywhere I go.</i><br><br><i>Includ
    Melanie Mercogliano
    "I’m constantly assessing threats. I scan rooms to identify escape routes everywhere I go.

    Including, in my own home.

    I triple turn all of the doors in my house after I lock them, to make sure they are locked. 

    I check and re-check my home security system before bed.

    I sleep with my panic alarm remote. It is positioned at the same exact degree and angle every night, so I know even in a sleepy haze, what button to push.

    The trauma of emotional abuse and manipulation never leaves you. 

    You don’t ever get over it. 

    It is scarred into your psyche. It drives your behavior."
  • <i>"I have nightmares at least once a month -- where I am running.&nbsp;</i><br><br><i>I am running to get away from my abuse
    Melanie Mercogliano
    "I have nightmares at least once a month -- where I am running. 

    I am running to get away from my abuser. Or I’m running to protect my kids from my abuser. 

    It’s been 12 years since I’ve seen him. 

    I am still running."
  • <i>"My abuser was confident no one would believe that he hit me, threatened me and manipulated me because he never left any m
    Melanie Mercogliano
    "My abuser was confident no one would believe that he hit me, threatened me and manipulated me because he never left any marks. Because I didn’t have bruises, or gashes. 

    He was right. Hardly any of my friends did believe me.

    I mostly suffered in silence, and shame."
  • <i>"Many victims of domestic violence experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There are resources, therapies and me
    Melanie Mercogliano
    "Many victims of domestic violence experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There are resources, therapies and medications available to help victims.

    I’ve been fortunate. Through meditation, I’ve learned to self-medicate.

    "Yoga, nature, travel and writing are my medication. My therapy. I don’t know if coping will always be manageable for me. But, for now, I do what works best for myself."
  • <i>"I have two daughters. Teaching them how to be leavers, not stayers, and fighters, not always lovers -- is how I remain st
    Melanie Mercogliano
    "I have two daughters. Teaching them how to be leavers, not stayers, and fighters, not always lovers -- is how I remain strong. I give them age appropriate tools and resources to stay out of abusive relationships. 

    But, it might not be enough. The bleak reality is that one in three women have been victims of physical abuse (in some form) in their lifetime. If attitudes towards domestic violence and legislation don’t change -- there is a good chance my own daughters could be victims of domestic violence."
  • <i>"With each word I type about domestic violence, I am writing myself back together. I am taking away the strength my abuser
    Melanie Mercogliano
    "With each word I type about domestic violence, I am writing myself back together. I am taking away the strength my abuser had over me -- and funneling that power to myself and to awareness. 

    Physical and emotional abuse scar people. Violence, in all forms, is unacceptable. I can’t rewrite the old chapters of abuse and I can’t erase the scars. 

    But, I can create the new narrative of my life. I can help other victims and survivors write their new narratives too."

Head over to Hosseini and/or Mercogliano's websites to read more about them.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline or visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center's website. 

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